Over recent months I’ve been pursuing the goal of a fully-connected home entertainment system. In the living room, the TV, amplifier, Blu Ray player, PlayStation and Sky box are all connected to the house network, and from there they can connect to the internet and to other devices in the house. Upstairs is a connected TV, and a Sky box. In the garage a box smaller than a toaster holds in excess of 100 DVDs and 1,000 CDs, ready to serve them up to any consuming device that wants them.
The Sky box has a network connection, which it uses to augment its “Anytime” service to provide a sort of video on demand. VoD is one of those things that you don’t really think about until you use it. Services such as BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD and others provide near-instant access to shows that you forgot to record.
My parents have gone a different way. They too have TVs all over the house, but they rely on over-the-air TV, which they record onto a mass of DVD-RWs using a veritable phalanx of DVD recorders. This gives them one crucial advantage over our fully-connected system: They do not have to watch a show on the device that recorded it.
This is more useful than you may initially think. For us, if we record a show on the Sky+ box in the living room, we have to play it back in the living room. If we record it in the bedroom, in the bedroom we must watch. This does not offer the flexibility we need, and is frequently inconvenient. My parents on the other hand, can just whip the disc out, move it to their playback area of choice, sit down and watch.
Why can I not do this with the Sky system? Sure, there are ways to ‘blow’ your Sky signal into another room, but they’re not official, rely on the lower-quality RF signal path, and cause havoc for the person who’s in that other room trying to watch the TV. And that’s before you start worrying about replaying the remote signals from the room you’re in to the room with the Sky box you’re watching.
Why can the two Sky boxes not function as local network peers? It’s not hard to configure a discovery protocol so that they can find each other. They can handshake, and then pass programmes between each other. Record on one box, then stream that recording over the network to another box.
I don’t see a problem with it. Technically it’s a cinch, and there are already all sorts of protocols (such as DLNA) ready-brewed for such activities, including the detection, handshake and streaming transport. I can’t see a licensing issue, since the shows would be recorded and consumed within the same house.
I can only think that Sky has failed to see the awesomeness of such a feature, or hasn’t bothered itself to do the coding.
For shame, Sky!